A £300,00 community buyout of a much loved Ross-shire woodland is to become a reality after six years and an earlier setback.
Funding has now been formally confirmed
for the Evanton Wood Community Company to purchase the 65-hectare mixed wood from the Novar Estate for development as a locally-owned asset and recreational resource.
After an earlier setback, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) was identified two years ago as a potential source of funding, in the light of the heritage importance of Evanton Wood.
The HLF were impressed by the involvement of the community in a series of community, school events and volunteer activities in the wood, as well as support for the purchase through surveys and letters.
HLF has agreed to put up a total of £321,000 towards which comprises £200k towards the purchase price itself, and the remainder to help fund a five-year development plan for the woodland. Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has also approved over £67,000 towards the purchase price.
Kiltearn Community Council has made a major commitment from its several windfarm funds; other funding has come in from Highland Council, EBScotland/Landfill Tax, the Robertson Trust, Garfield Weston Foundation, the Co-operative Big Community Vote and local firms Technip and, Isleburn/Global. Further donations of around £3,000 have come in from the community and local firms.
Evanton Wood Community Company chairman Adrian Clark said: "This is a just reward for the hard work and commitment by many people over a lengthy period.
"It is a good day for the local community that we have managed to safeguard the future of this wonderful wood and can now provide a wide range of opportunities as a result. We thank our funders for this opportunity."
The sale of the wood is to go through imminently.
Meanwhile the woodland board has selected an education and outreach co-ordinator who will help take the project forward. A recent open meeting demonstrated that 25 people are keen to be involved practically in the management and development of their wood.
The group plans to improve access and paths in the wood, provide seating, better sign-posting, interpretation panels and leaflets, and education packs.
It also plans to hold educational events, improve biodiversity, develop the pond, plant native trees and shrubs, hold volunteer work days, skills and other training, and record and survey the woodland.
Colin McLean, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said: "This is a great project as it shows how local heritage can be a catalyst for lots of different activities. It will provide learning opportunities for local schools, training opportunities for volunteers and opportunities for everyone to explore and enjoy the natural heritage on their doorstep. "The Heritage Lottery Fund is delighted to give Evanton Wood Community Company its support in making this fascinating and beautiful wood accessible to many more people."